Granny smith apples grow in a California orchard. ( Courtesy California Apple Commission )

California’s apple marketers admit it: Their share of U.S. production is tiny.

No matter, they say. They’ll be promoting their crop with gusto during the upcoming California fall fruit season.

“I talked to a couple of growers yesterday (July 25), and the volume we’re anticipating coming off is looking good,” said Todd Sanders, executive director of the Clovis-based California Apple Commission.

“Looks like we’ll be a little bit later than last year — early to mid-August for start of harvest — but the volume is going to be a little larger.”

Last year, California shipped nearly 2 million cartons of apples during its fall season, Sanders said.

He noted that size and color will be assets this year.

California has been dealing with daily high temperatures in the triple-digits during the summer growing season, but the heat had not hurt apple crops, Sanders said.

“We had a really cool spring, which kind of delayed our blueberry harvest but consequently helped chilling hours for apples,” he said. “Now, the heat will accelerate maturing of the apples and they’ll come off the tree a little faster.”

The heat actually has been an aid, Sanders said.

“Our season would have dragged out a bit if it hadn’t been this warm,” he said.

Stockton, Calif.-based Primavera Marketing Inc. started gala harvest July 30, which is important for California’s limited window of opportunity, said Richard Sambado, Primavera’s sales manager.

“Not to sound like Lou Holtz, but what we do in California means nothing in the apple world,” he said. “We’ll do, what, 1.3 million boxes; Washington state does that by Tuesday each week.”

But Washington won’t start to hit its peak harvest until late August. That means every day before then is an opportunity for California’s industry, Sambado said.

Sambado expects to have galas available through Labor Day.

“We’ve got to pound a window,” he said. “We go to about Sept. 10 — that’s a stretch.”

Primavera expected to start shipping fujis around Aug. 20 and granny smiths a bit later than that. Those should run through late September.

At Lodi, Calif.-based Rivermaid Trading Co., the first galas shipped around Aug. 1, said Kyle Persky, sales manager.

“We’re expecting a decent crop,” he said.

The company expected harvest to run about three weeks, he said.

As of July 27, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cartons of tray-pack Washington extra fancy galas from Washington’s Yakima Valley and Wenatchee district were $18-24 for size 64s; $20-26, 72s; $26-30, 80s; $23-28, 88s; $20-22, 100s; $18-20, 113s; and $17-20, 125s.

A year earlier, the same variety, available only in size 100s, was $18-23.


Leaner pear season

Rivermaid also will have pears, which accounts for about half of its fruit, although the company anticipates a leaner volume there because of “poor bloom weather,” Persky said.

The fruit that survived will be good, Persky said.

“There hasn’t been any frost or freezes or hailstorms,” he said.

The bartlett variety accounts for 90% of California’s pear crop, Persky said.

As of July 27, the USDA reported 36-pound cartons of bartlett pears from Northern California were $28 for size 80s; $25-26, 90s; $22-23, 100s; $20, 110s; and $18-20 for 120s, 135s and 150s. A year earlier, 36-pound tight-fill cartons were $34-36, 90s; and $35, 100s.


Asian pears

Fresno, Calif.-based Trinity Fruit Sales Co. Inc. started its Asian pear crop in the first week of August, said Levon Ganajian, retail relations director.

Trinity’s primary brown-skin Asian pear varieties are hosui and shinko, he said.

“Our hosui crop is down quite a bit, shockingly, down double digits,” Ganajian said. “When we had that late frost, that affected the bloom.”

Shinko volume likely will be up over last year, though, Ganajian said.

“That bloomed about a month later, and that crop is up,” he said.

Asian pears have been a challenge to move in the past, but things are looking up, Ganajian said.

“We’re seeing new interest in them,” he said.

“We’ve seen a change in the customer’s acceptance of it. Plus, it’s available year-round, and that makes a difference.”